In December 2009, the first Angry Birds game was launched mobile phones and, by the following year, it was considered “one of the most mainstream games out right now”. In the years that followed, we had many variations of the game, including sequels and spin-offs, along with TV programmes, merchandise, books, and in 2016, a feature film. Of course we got a film. Hollywood cannot keep their greedy mitts off anything remotely successful. And so, even a mobile phone game about firing flightless birds into a pig fortress with a slingshot can be made into a 90 minute film…
First of all, you may be surprised to learn that I absolutely adored The Angry Birds Movie. Absolutely adored every second. As far as I’m concerned, it 100% achieves everything it is trying to. But before we get into why, let’s talk about how screenwriter Jon Vitti has made an actual plot around the overly simplistic game.
Our hero, the iconic Red (Jason Sudeikis), is a bitter and cynical bird. An outcast since his childhood, he is a spiteful and lonely guy who lives alone on the beach. After one of his outbursts lands him in trouble with the law, he finds himself ordered to an anger management class where we meets other ‘angry birds’ Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Terence (Sean Penn). But just as things seem to be becoming bearable for Red, a shipload of suspicious green pigs invade the peaceful birds’ island with the intent of stealing their eggs. Red must band the birds together and save the eggs before it’s too late – yes, by firing themselves at the pig’s fortress with a big ol’ slingshot. So, just as charmingly simple as the game!
Where do I begin with Angry Birds…Let’s start with the first thing you see – those stunning visuals. While Disney’s rivals tend to leave a lot to be desired in the animation department, Sony has made an impeccably gorgeous feast for the eyes here. The bright colours pop (colourgasm!!!), the feathers look so real you just want to stroke them (especially in 3D!) and the beautifully realised locations are positively filled with sight-gags that only work so well because of the delightful animation.
And the sight-gags are only a small portion of the film’s humour. There do seem to be jokes in almost every frame, whether in the background or right up front – there are cheesy puns throughout the film, but the majority of which actually come through as dialogue. And while these puns are cheesy to the point of being ‘dad jokes’, they’re delivered in a self-aware tongue-in-cheek style that you cannot help but laugh at – despite their predictability. There are smarter jokes here, some of which are there for the parents and will go right over the kids’ heads – but it’s the silly humour of the film that got me the most. Angry Birds is absolutely hilarious throughout and I’m not ashamed to admit even had this reviewer in genuine tears of laughter.
The humour is helped by such a brilliant cast of characters, all voiced by some of comedy’s finest. Sudeikis is great as the dry and sarcastic Red, and it is a brave move to make our hero so hateful of everyone. While Zootropolis did this to a certain extent with Nick Wilde, at least he had an overly joyous bunny pal to counter it. Red’s anger is at the forefront here which is an interesting move, and it works. Especially when we learn of his childhood. Other characters are brave, too; Josh Gad’s Chuck for example is clearly homosexual. Although not spelled out to the viewer, his fantasy about a leather clad bald Eagle dancing for him and comments about admiring the nude male pigs sure do paint a certain picture of the character. And it’s a brave and well-executed move. Bravo. McBride is brilliant too as the gentle-yet-explosive Bomb, and keep your ears peeled for appearances from Bill Hader and Tyrion himself, Peter Dinklage.
I was surprised by just how good Angry Birds was, and by just how mixed the critical reception was upon the film’s release. I know it’s an age-old argument, but it rings true every time – this is a film that isn’t trying to win Oscars. It’s trying to entertain the youngsters. That is its primary goal. The simplistic narrative, bright animation and hilarious jokes are surely enough to pass this test with flying colours. For me, Angry Birds is the closest a non-Disney film has come to Disney quality in a long time.
Angry Birds is an utter delight. 5/5
Angry Birds Movie at CeX
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